Chives Birthday Celebration

Originally posted June 1, 2010

No, my friends, unfortunately it wasn’t my birthday this past weekend that I helped to celebrate at Chives Canadian Bistro. My birthday is months past. You don’t remember the blog post? I’m offended.

Two dear old friends of mine, who happen to be twins, celebrated their special day with a small dinner gathering at this fine Halifax bistro. Surprisingly it was my first visit to Chives this past Saturday evening, and what a fine evening it was. We arrived on time to find that our table was not ready; lingering diners in our area were just not ready to let go. The many servers who made contact with us and apologized for our wait were very gracious. Wine was poured and tentative seating arrangements were made. We hardly noticed the wait.

Seated in the upper area (I love the intimate interior of Chives by the way – small, historic, and cozy quarters meet trendy new designs and art) we began to mull over the small yet carefully constructed menu. Our server Linda greeted us, poured our water, informed us of the specials, and was not put off in the slightest by our group’s disjointed arrivals, questions, or indecision! A very professional lady.

Once decisions were made and more drinks were poured (wine for some, mojitos for others) the much anticipated brown paper bags arrived at our table. I had heard of these brown paper bags and the supposedly delicious homemade biscuits that awaited us inside. My expectations were exceeded. Accompanied with butter and molasses with an adorable little spoon, I anxiously dressed my tea biscuit and chowed down. Delightfully tasty, the nostalgic flavour and texture of homemade tea biscuits were the perfect start to my evening. Falling apart and melting in my mouth with buttery goodness, I have to admit, they were a close second to my grandmother’s tea biscuits. This was, however, my first experience with molasses on top… and hopefully won’t be my last.

Up next – mains. As a seafood-eating vegetarian, I found Chives menu limiting in my options. The special of the evening was a Lobster-Crusted Halibut on top of a Doubled-Smoked Bacon Risotto. If not for the bacon I would have gone for it – I don’t like making modifications on something designed so strategically with its flavour combination. Both friends sitting on either side of me were ordering the Lobster and Scallop Tagliatelle, obviously I couldn’t also order this, as lack of diversity at the dinner table is one of my long-standing and generally misunderstood pet peeves. I opted for what appeared to be the token vegetarian option on the menu – the Vegetable Tandoor – and was very, very pleasantly surprised.

My delightful looking Vegetable Tandoor arrived: a sweet curry ragout of sweet potato chunks and chick peas on top of a red lentil and coconut rice with cashews, caramelized onions, topped with a fried green tomato and apricot chutney. The dish was garnished sparingly yet effectively with halved cherry tomatoes. Overall, I truly enjoyed my selection. Mind you a bit of moisture on the bottom of the plate might have been nice – maybe a bit of however they flavoured the rice (coconut milk is one of my all-time favourite ingredients) could have worked; the rice was bone dry. Both the flavour and texture combinations in this dish were spot-on. The sweet curry, richness of the sweet potato, cashews and chick peas complimented nicely with the acidity of the fried green tomato. The green tomato was crispy and delicious, paired perfectly with that syrupy sweetness of the apricot chutney. Topped simply with fresh greens. Definitely not the mandatory veggie option that I was half-expecting. I ordered the suggest pairing – Bodegas Centenarian, a full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. This was spicy, green peppery on the nose. I found black currant, red berry, earthy and full-on in the mouth. Rest assured, the wine stood up to the richness of the dish.

Generously offered a bite (with an adequate amount of lobster) from the birthday girl to my right, I did indeed sample the Lobster and Scallop Tagliatelle. What can I say about this? It might be your traditional creamy seafood pasta dish that you would find on almost any menu in any downtown Halifax bistro, however, the amount of seafood alone I think sets this one apart. The creamy sauce was rich and tasty, the chopped fresh chives on top were fitting. This was also a satisfying dish.

The birthday girls were treated to a Warm Chocolate Peanut Buster, which was a rich flourless chocolate cake accompanied by a peanut butter ice cream and topped with candied Virginia peanuts. Sparklers were atop these celebratory offerings and we sang happy birthday, as any decent birthday dinner companions do. I did manage to sneak a bite of this as well. The moist and spongy texture of the cake took me by surprise. I am not one to usually indulge in dessert and definitely not something as rich as flourless chocolate cake. I enjoyed the peanut butter ice cream thoroughly! A rich and flavourful ending to an inspiring meal. Also, I ordered a coffee to finish off the meal – as this was only our first stop – fuel for a long and eventful birthday celebration.

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